Isaac Wolfe Bernheim (November 4, 1848 – April 1, 1945) was an American businessman notable for starting the I. W. Harper brand of premium bourbon whiskey. The success of his distillery and distribution business helped to consolidate the Louisville area as a major center of Kentucky bourbon distilling. Bernheim was also a philanthropist, establishing the 14,000-acre Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Bullitt County. The company began the production of an elite whiskey brand it called “I. W. Harper”. (The “I. W.” in the name may have been an abbreviation for “Isaac Wolfe”, with a different surname chosen for marketability.) During the Prohibition era in the U.S. [1920–1933], Bernheim Brothers was one of only ten distilleries allowed to continue to make bourbon, as they had received a license to produce it for medicinal purposes.
In 1992, a large distilling plant called the Bernheim Distillery was opened in Louisville by United Distillers (on West Breckinridge Street near Dixie Highway). United owned the I. W. Harper brand at the time the distillery was opened. United later became Diageo, which currently owns the brand but no longer owns the distillery (as of February 2014). The modern Bernheim distillery is not to be confused with the prior Bernheim distillery sites. The Bernheim distillery was then purchased by Heaven Hill Distilleries in the late 1990s, and was substantially refurbished to become Heaven Hill’s main distilling plant. Heaven Hill purchased the site after a 1996 fire destroyed its prior distilling plant in Bardstown. The Bernheim Original wheat whiskey brand introduced by Heaven Hill in 2005 was also named after the Bernheim brothers, the distilling company they founded, and the modern distillery that bears their name.